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Benjamin Netanyahu Speech; Netanyahu Fires Back after Kerry's Speech; Kerry's Speech was Skewed against Israel; White House Ready to Punish Russia for Election Hack. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired December 28, 2016 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Shared interests, a sense of shared destiny and a partnership that has endured differences of opinions between our two governments over the best way to advance peace and stability in the Middle East. I have no doubt our lives will endure the profound disagreement we have had with the Obama administration and will become even stronger in the future.
But now I must stress my deep disappointment with the speech today of John Kerry. A speech that was almost as unbalanced as the anti-Israel resolution passed at the U.N. last week. In a speech ostensibly about peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Secretary Kerry paid lip service to the unremitting campaign of terrorism that has been waged by the Palestinians against the Jewish state for nearly a century. What he did was to spend most of his speech blaming Israel for the lack of peace by passionately condemning a policy of enabling Jews to live in their historic homeland and in their eternal capital, Jerusalem. Hundreds of suicide bombings, thousands, tens of thousands of rockets, millions of Israelis in bomb shelters are not throw away lines in a speech. They are the realities that the people of Israel had to endure because of mistaken policies, policies that at the time won the thunderous applause of the world.
I don't seek applause. I seek the security and peace and prosperity and the future of the Jewish state. The Jewish people have sought their place under the sun for 3,000 years and we are not about to be swayed by mistaken policies that have caused great, great damage. Israelis do not need to be lectured about the importance of peace by foreign leaders. Israel's hand has been extended in peace to its neighbors from day one from its very first day. We pray for peace. We've worked for it every day since then. And thousands of Israeli families have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country and advance peace.
My family has been one of them. There are many, many others. No one wants peace more than the people of Israel. Israel remains committed to resolving the outstanding differences between us and the Palestinians through direct negotiations. This is how we made peace with Egypt. This is how we made peace with Jordan. It's the only way we'll make peace with the Palestinians. That has always been Israel's policy.
That has always been America's policy. Here's what President Obama himself said at the U.N. in 2011. He said, "peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations." If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now." That's what President Obama said. And he was right. And until last week, this was repeated over and over again as American policy.
Secretary Kerry said that the United States cannot vote against its own policy, but that's exactly what it did at the U.N. And that's why Israel opposed last week's Security Council resolution because it effectively calls the western wall "occupied Palestinian territory," because it encourages boycotts and sanctions against Israel. That's what it effectively does. And because it reflects a radical shift in U.S. policy towards the Palestinians on final status issues, those issues that we always agreed, the U.S. and Israel, have to be negotiated directly face to face without pre-conditions.
That shift happened despite the Palestinians walking away from peace and from peace offers time and time again, despite their refusal to even negotiate peace for the past eight years and despite the Palestinian Authority inculcating a culture of hatred towards Israel and an entire generation of young Palestinians.
Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Trump and with the American Congress - Democrats and Republicans alike - to mitigate the damage that this resolution has done and ultimately to repeal it. Israel hopes that the outgoing Obama administration will prevent any more damage being done to Israel at the U.N. in its waning days.
[14:05:10] I wish I could be comforted by the promise that the U.S. says we will not bring any more resolutions to the U.N. That's what they said about this previous resolution. We have it on absolutely incontestable evidence that the United States organized, advanced, and brought this resolution to the United Nations Security Council. We'll share that information with the incoming administration. Some of it is sensitive. It's all true. You saw some of it in the protocol released in the - in an Egyptian paper. There's plenty more. It's the tip of the iceberg.
So they say, "but we didn't bring it." And they could take John Kerry's speech with the six points. It could be raised in the French international conference a few days from now and then brought to the U.N. So France will bring it, or Sweden, not a noted friend of Israel, could bring it. And the United States could say, well, we can't vote against our own policy. We just enunciated it. I think the United States, if it's true to its word, or at least if it's now true to its word, should now come out and say, we will not allow any resolutions, any more resolutions in the Security Council on Israel, period. Not we will bring or not bring, we will not allow any and stop this game of charades.
I think that the decisions that are vital to Israel's interests and the future of its children, they won't be made through speeches in Washington or votes in the United Nations or conferences in Paris. They'll be made by the government of Israel around the negotiating table, making them on behalf of the one and only Jewish state, a sovereign nation that is the master of its own fate.
And one final thought. I personally know the pain, the loss, and the suffering of war. That's why I'm so committed to peace because for anyone who's experienced it, as I have, war and terror are horrible. I want young Palestinian children to be educated like our children, for peace. But they're not educated for peace. The Palestinian authority educates them to lionize terrorists and to murder Israelis. My vision is that Israelis and Palestinians both have a future of mutual recognition, of dignity, mutual respect, co-existence. But the Palestinian Authority tells them that they will never accept and should never accept the existence of a Jewish state.
So I ask you, how can you make peace with someone who rejects your very existence? See, this conflict is not about houses or communities in the West Bank, Judaea, Samaria, the Gaza district or anywhere else. This conflict is and has always been about Israel's very right to exist. That's why my hundreds of calls to sit with President Abbas for peace talks have gone unanswered. That's why my invitation for him to come to the Knesset was never answered. That's why the Palestinian government continues to pay anyone who murders Israelis a monthly salary. The persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish state remains the core of the conflict and its removal is the key to peace.
Palestinian rejection of Israel and support for terror are what the nations of the world should focus on if they truly want to advance peace. And I can only express my regret and say that it's a shame that Secretary Kerry does not see this simple truth.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Pamela Brown, filling in for Brooke Baldwin.
And you just heard Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu giving an emotional and personal response to a speech by Secretary of State John Kerry. With the clock ticking down on the Obama White House, Kerry delivered an impassioned swan song speech earlier today, speaking for an hour and ten minutes on his vision for Israel and peace in the Middle East and what he believes is standing in the way. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The Israeli prime minister publically supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right-wing in Israeli history with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements. The result is that policies of this government, which the prime minister himself just described as more committed to settlements than any in Israel's history are leading in the opposite direction, they're leading towards one state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[14:10:23] BROWN: The speech happening less than a month before President-elect Trump takes office and with the backdrop of a bitter war of words and major cracks in the once strong bond between the U.S. and Israel. Netanyahu calling it a, quote, "shameful ambush" after the U.S. abstained on a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem instead of using its veto power, as the Obama administration has done every other time with measures critical of Israel. But Kerry defended the U.S.' decision and rejected the Israeli's claim of some kind of secret collusion to craft the vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We also strongly reject the notion that somehow the United States was the driving force behind this resolution. The Egyptians and Palestinians had long made clear to all of us, to all of the international community, their intention to bring a resolution to a vote before the end of the year. And we communicated that to the Israelis and they knew it anyway. The United States did not draft or originate this resolution, nor did we put it forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Let's go to CNN's Oren Liebermann, who is live in Jerusalem. And before we get to Kerry's speech, talk to us about Netanyahu's reaction here.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a measured reaction, but one that I think we could have very much expected. We heard his response to the U.N. Security Council resolution. His response to this wasn't all that different.
I do want to point out, he spoke much longer in English than in Hebrew, and that gives you an idea of who his audience was here. He wasn't speaking to Israelis, he was speaking to Americans and the general public there in the U.S. But he pointed out what he feels is the bias of Kerry's speech, a 70-minute speech. Netanyahu made it obvious he felt it didn't focus enough on Palestinian incitement and violence and instead focused almost entirely on settlements.
Netanyahu believes, and he's said this repeatedly, that settlements are not the obstacle to peace. Without question now, with that U.N. Security Council resolution, that is certainly not the international consensus and that's definitely not the opinion of Secretary Kerry, who pointed out that some of the expansion threatens the ability of putting together one Palestinian state. So I think we expected to hear that kind of response from Netanyahu.
He also talked about what he worries about next. And that's what he - he said he's afraid that another move at the U.N. Security Council or another move by the international community, he worries that's still on the table and he urged the Obama administration to say flat out that it's not coming. That's a concern they've voiced repeatedly over the last few days now that they're about three weeks left in Obama's time in office. He also mentioned the president-elect and how he'd much - he's looking forward to working with the next administration. These words were a bit more civil than some of the other words we've heard exchanged over the last few days.
But one other point, the accusation that we've heard from many Israelis, including Netanyahu himself, Israeli officials here and there has been over the past week that it was Secretary of State Kerry and the Obama administration that drafted the U.N. Security Council resolution. They've said they have concrete evidence, evidence that's incontrovertible. Once again making that accusation. Once again not offering the information, saying we'll provide it to President Trump when he's in office.
BROWN: And, of course, the U.S. denies that it orchestrated anything with this resolution. Oren Liebermann, thank you very much for that.
And now I want to bring in George Mitchell, former U.S. senator and former U.S. special envoy to the Middle East.
You have personally negotiated for peace in the Middle East. I want to get your reaction to both Kerry's speech and then the reaction after that, just moments ago, by Israeli's prime minister.
GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE MIDDLE EAST: Well, Kerry's speech obviously emotional and deeply committed. He spent a great deal of time and effort there, has a strong personal commitment. I commend him for that. His speech was essentially a defense of the two-state solution, which he sees as slipping away, support declining for it and which he believes is the only viable solution to the conflict. I share that view and I agree that it's important that the two-state solution be preserved.
Unfortunately, it came in the wake of the U.N. Security Council resolution, which has created a high level of emotion in the region on all sides and has created this - what you might call latest distance between the Obama administration and Prime Minister Netanyahu's administration.
The prime minister's speech was, as your correspondent just said, entirely predictable. I think pretty much what anyone would have expected him to say. My hope now is that the prime minister will refocus away from making this the issue in dealing with the international community because Israel is being increasingly isolated because of this issue and the manner in which it's being handled. It's already isolated in the Muslim world, which is about one-fifth of the world's population, soon to be a third, and now, with his taking on Britain, France, Spain, New Zealand and other natural allies, I hope it's behind them and that they'll move to reengage and broaden their base of support in the European and other communities that are natural supporters.
[14:15:33] BROWN: And you also heard Netanyahu really taking direct aim at Secretary of State Kerry, saying that he spent most of his speech blaming Israel for lack of peace in the Middle East. What's your take? Do you agree?
MITCHELL: No, I don't. I think he tried to be even handed across the board. He was speaking specifically about the issue of settlements because you see the U.S. policy has been, in my judgment rightly, that all major issues will be left to direct negotiations between the parties and that ultimately they'll come together and with our help reach an agreement. The problem is that as settlements increase, the land on which there could be a Palestinian state will no longer be available for that purpose and so if you wait long enough and have enough settlements, then no agreement will ever be possible. And I think Kerry was trying to point out that we have to get to that issue before there is no possibility of creating a Palestinian state.
Now, I should say - and it must be understood - that there's opposition to any two-state solution by many people in Israel, including many prominent members of Prime Minister Netanyahu's cabinet. They are absolutely determined and they say publicly there will never be a Palestinian state on the West Bank. And also the Palestinian society is divided between the Palestinian Authority, which accepts Israel's existence, which opposes violence against Israel, and which provides a great service to Israel in suppressing terror activities among - within the West Bank, but there is internal disagreement with Hamas, which controls Gaza, which does not agree with the Palestinian Authority on those positions with respect to Israel. So both societies are divided. Both societies have internal political issues, as well as the dynamic between the two societies themselves.
BROWN: And a lot of this touched on in the book that you wrote, "A Path to Peace." George Mitchell, thank you for coming on the show. We do appreciate it.
MITCHELL: Thank you for having me.
BROWN: And let me bring in Aaron David Miller, a CNN global affairs analyst and vice president for New Initiatives and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. Miller is also the former adviser to six secretaries of state on Arab/Israeli negotiations, and Daniel Kurtzer is a former ambassador to Israel and Egypt and a professor of Middle East policy studies at Princeton University.
Two wonderful minds to come on the show and speak about this topic. We've heard from both Kerry, as well as Netanyahu.
And, Aaron David Miller, I want to start with you. Netanyahu says it is a shame that Secretary Kerry does not understand his own personal perspective on the impact of war. What is your reaction to that statement?
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean - I - look, I think where you stand in life has a good deal to do with where you sit. And the reality is, Washington and Jerusalem are sitting in very different places. The prime minister's reaction I think was driven in large part by anger and resentment. He tried to mobilize the president-elect and the president of Egypt. He did not succeed. And now I think he's caught in a very difficult bind between an international community that will be increasingly focused on trying to isolate and pressure the Israelis based on this resolution and a right wing that is going to continue to drive the discussion and debate and encourage more activities on the ground. Plus, you have a French confab coming up a couple weeks from now and I think there's great concern, again, by the Israeli government, that some of these statements may actually try to make themselves into another U.N. Security Council resolution.
So the Israeli reaction was predictable. It's easy to beat up on an outgoing administration, particularly when, in fact, you have an incoming administration that is likely to be much more supportive of your interests.
BROWN: So on that note, ambassador, what do you think the end goal here was for Secretary of State Kerry to come out and make this speech with less than a month left in the Obama administration?
DANIEL KURTZER, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL & EGYPT: I think that Kerry was reflecting eight years of significant frustration on the part of the Obama administration, which had made Middle East peace a significant priority right from the outset. And here we are, eight years later, and we are further away from a two-state solution than ever before. Kerry having devoted countless hours, two years of deep effort to try to bring about negotiations. And I think what he wanted to do was to leave behind, as comprehensive a picture as possible, of what it is that the United States sees as the main issues on the table, the major impediments and the pathway forward.
[14:20:22] Unfortunately, it came in a week in which, you know, Prime Minister Netanyahu stripped away the veneer of any civility and discourse with the Obama administration and so, you know, the reaction that took him less than two hours before he analyzed the speech and thought about it in order to reject it suggests to you that he's paying no attention whatsoever to whatever the Obama administration or Secretary Kerry has to say. Substantively, Kerry has made what I think is the most important speech of an American policy maker in decades, but politically it clearly is now dead in the water.
BROWN: So, on that note, Aaron, why wasn't this speech given sooner?
MILLER: Ah-ha, and that's a very interesting question. Daniel Kurtzer knows, together we've probably written a fair number of speeches by secretaries of state over the years -
MILLER: And I think the five minutes to midnight timing on this, I think works to the disadvantage of the administration. Part of the problem, Pam, is that the administration has largely confined its policies on the Israeli/Palestinian issue, and specifically on settlements, to rhetoric. And if the Obama administration wanted to craft a serious policy on settlements and introduce initiatives, why wait until the last moment? And I think the problem here is that the incoming administration is going to walk away from this very quickly and probably acquiesce and give the Israelis a much broader margin and discretion on the ground to do things, and that's simply going to confound and confuse further American allies and adversaries.
BROWN: I want to ask you, ambassador, what is the justification for Israel to continue to build settlements deep into the West Bank when most of the world condemns that, as Secretary Kerry mentioned today in his speech?
KURTZER: You know, it's a great question. I came back this morning from nine days in Israel and had a chance to visit some of those settlements deep in the West Bank, including the outpost of Hamona (ph), which is the subject of tremendous discord within the Israeli political system. There really is no justification other than the fact that an ideological religious group of settlers has in some ways captured the coalition that's governing Israel. They have a significant voice within the Likud Party. They basically control the ideology of the (INAUDIBLE), the Jewish national home party, and the government is now running on the fumes of this fuel provided by ideological settlers.
Most Israelis believe that there is a justification for what would be called the settlement blocks that are close to the 1967 line. They support the idea of retaining the neighborhoods in Jerusalem. But most Israelis would say they don't understand why there's such significant investment in settlements that are only going to impede the prospect of any peaceful settlement. So there's a real issue here that sees the intersection between diplomacy in which you would like to see a two- state solution and the politics of an Israeli coalition that is heading in an exactly opposite direction.
BROWN: Ambassador Kurtzer, Aaron David Miller, thank you for coming on, sharing your perspectives and happy New Year to you both.
MILLER: Same to you, Pam.
KURTZER: Thank you.
BROWN: Much more on this breaking news straight ahead.
Also, retaliation against Russia. New details about the White House's plans to strike back against Russia and Vladimir Putin for meddling in the U.S. election. Back in just a moment. Stay with us.
[14:27:27] BROWN: With just 23 days before he leaves office, President Obama is about to deliver on one of his final promises. The Obama administration is putting a plan in place to punish Russia for interfering in the election. An announcement could come as soon as tomorrow. CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez is following this story. I'm also joined by Masha Gessen. She is the author of "The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin."
And, Evan, I want to go to you first. Just kind of lay out for us, how does the U.S. plan to retaliate against Russia?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, part of it involves expanding the sanctions that are already existing. There's a number of individuals and entities in Russia that are already under sanctions related to various activities, including the annexation of territory in Ukraine. This has to do with the disinformation campaign, the cyber hacking and the disinformation campaign that has been going on for the better part of a year that was targeting particularly the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. The officials inside the Obama administration, as you know, have been wrestling with what to do about this and now, as you mentioned, with just a couple weeks to go before the administration leaves office, they're preparing to expand those sanctions that are already existing. We expect that there are going to be some diplomatic measures that they're going to take. And then, of course, there's stuff that we don't see. The sort of unannounced covert measures that - that the administration says that they can take at a time of their choosing and we won't ever know exactly what those are.
BROWN: What about naming and shaming, as we've seen in the Iran hacks, in the China hacks? Do we expect them to actually call out individuals in Russia?
PEREZ: We do. We expect that they're going to - they're going to expand the list of names that are already under sanctions. That's part of the sanctioning authority. And so, yes, we expect that they're going to be naming names, individuals who they believe were associated with this Russian disinformation campaign that, again, has been going on for about a year.
BROWN: And, Masha, from what you just heard from Evan about the Obama administration's plan to retaliate, does this seem like a proportionate response to you, an appropriate response?
MASHA GESSEN, AUTHOR, "THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE: THE UNLIKELY RISE OF VLADIMIR PUTIN": I think it's an appropriate response. It may be a little bit late. But I think this is - this is the sort of thing that concerns Putin the most. He has been feeling victorious and he has been making it clear that he's certain that Trump is going to lift sanctions that have been imposed on Russia. So this will be an effective last hit.
BROWN: Well, you know, she said it's a little late, Evan. This was happening, this sort of information war was happening, of course, during the campaign.
PEREZ: That's right.
BROWN: You've done a lot of reporting on the why now. Why wasn't this done when the action was actually taking place during the campaign?
[14:30:00] PEREZ: Boy, you know, that's - that's the million-dollar question, right, because Democrats even, I think, have come out and are critical of the Obama administration because they believe that some of this could have been done more publically and certainly much more early and perhaps we would have seen perhaps a different